Formation: A Franciscan Perspective

By Bret Thoman, OFS

The Work of the Son.
(5:19) Jesus answered and said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, a son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees his father doing; for what he does, his son will do also. For the Father loves his Son and shows him everything that he himself does, and he will show him greater works than these, so that you may be amazed. (5:21) For just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so also does the San give life to whomever he wishes.(5:22) Nor does the Father judge anyone, but he has given all judgment. to his Son, so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come to condemnation, but has passed from death to life.”

Footnotes:

5:19 This proverb or parable is taken from apprenticeship in a trade: the activity of a son is modeled on that of his father. Jesus’ dependence on the Father is justification for doing what the Father does.

5:21 Gives life: in the Old Testament, a divine prerogative (Dt 32:39; 1 5m 2:6; 2 Kgs

5:7; Tb13:2; /5 26:19; Dn 12:2).

5:22 Judgment: another divine prerogative, often expressed as acquittal or
condemnation (Dt32:36; Ps 43:1).

We need a Franciscan Perspective

There are different acceptable theologies in the Church. Each one leads to a particular way of
interpreting life and guiding the lives of Catholics. Franciscan Theology gives us the framework
within which Franciscans live.

A Franciscan perspective leads to the development of a sense of freedom. We believe in a God
who always loves us. Our Franciscan perspective assists us in making moral decisions; in
understanding the truths of the Faith with a Franciscan flavor; in responding to the call of the Holy Spirit to follow Francis of Assisi. The Franciscan perspective offers a particular way of seeing what a Christ-Gospel-centered life looks like. It reflects our understanding of God as a
God who loves us.

1 John 4:16New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)
We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us. God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.

General Constitution of the Secular Franciscan Order
Chapter ll
Form of Life and Apostolic Activity
Title I
The Form of Life
Article 9

Rule 5 The spirituality of the secular Franciscan is a plan of life centered on the person and on the following of Christ, rather than a detailed program to be put into practice.

2. Rule 4,3 The secular Franciscan, committed to following the example and the teachings of
Christ, must personally and assiduously study the Gospel and Sacred Scripture. The fraternity
and its leaders should foster love for the word of the Gospel and help the brothers and sisters to
know and understand it as it is proclaimed by the Church with the assistance of the Spirit.

Article 12

1. Gaining inspiration from the example and the writings of Francis and, above all, filled with
the grace of the Holy Spirit, each day the brothers and sisters faithfully live the great gift which
Christ has given: the revelation of the Father. They should bear witness to this faith before all:
+ in their family life;
+ in their work;
+ in their joys and sufferings;
+ in their associations with all men and women, brothers and sisters of the some Father;
+ in their presence and participation in the life of society;
+ in their fraternal relationships with all creatures.

2. Rule 10 With Jesus, obedient even to death, they should seek to know and do the will of the
Father. They should give thanks to God for the gift of freedom and for the revelation of the law
of love. In order to carry out the will of the Father, they should accept the help which is offered
to them through the mediation of the Church by those who are constituted as authority in her
and by their confreres. They should take on the risk of courageous choices in their life in society
with decisiveness and serenity.

3. Rule 8 The brothers and sisters should love meeting God as His children and they should let
prayer and contemplation be the soul of all they are and do. They should seek to discover the
presence of the Father in their own heart, in nature, and in the history of humanity in which His
plan of salvation is fulfilled. The contemplation of this mystery will dispose them to collaborate
in this loving plan.

Many Catholics believe the Jesus came among us as the result of sin. Therefore, someone
having equality with God was needed in order to save us. The incarnation, in this view, came
about because of something outside of God, namely, sin. Jesus suffering and death saves us
and reconciles us to God. This is a very legitimate perspective (Salvation History)

Franciscans, however, have another perspective. For us the Incarnation happened because God desired to be ‘with the people He had created. The love in God’s heart prompted the Incarnation.

1 John 4 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

God’s Love and Christian Life. Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God;
everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not
know God, for God is love. In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son
into the world so that we might have life through him. in this is love: not that we have loved
God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved
us, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another,
God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us.

Footnotes:
4:7-12 Love as we share in it testifies to the nature of God and to his presence in our lives. One who loves shows that one is a child of God and knows God, for God’s very being is love; one without love is without God. The revelation of the nature of God’s love is found in the free gift of his Son to us, so that we may share life with God and be delivered from our sins. The love we have for one another must be of the same sort: authentic, merciful; this unique Christian love is our proof that we know God and can ”see” the invisible God.

It is God’s deliberate choice to come among us. God is not moved by sin but by the love in His
heart, for God is love! Franciscans embrace this perspective. We believe in God’s loving concern for us. God’s love is constant and is not changed be events outside of God. None of us
has the power to stop God’s love for us.

God never give[s] up on us. God never abandons us. God never leaves us orphans. God chooses
to be with us because love does such things. We believe in this God. Our God is not a punishing God, making certain no failure goes unpunished. Our God is not a distant God, untouched by the pain of the people He loves. Our God is not bland and indifferent, but celebrates with us in our joys. Our God is not a manipulative God who treats us like marionettes on a string. Our God is not a God who fails to understand pain and suffering. God’s love is persistent and calls for conversion that brings us life and light.

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Jesus Christ is intimate with His Abba. Whatever he said or did, it was in the name of His Abba.

John 12:49-50New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

”because I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. So what I say, I say as the Father told me.”

We have a well-grounded trust in God because God is faithful. We are hopeful in the midst of
chaos in the Church and society because God is with us. The Holy Spirit is present to help us
know the truth revealed by Jesus. At no point does God abandon us no matter how bad things
get. God finds ways to love us back to life even when we are at our worst.

Our Franciscan belief in God’s love makes a difference in our lives. It makes a difference when
questions come up in life and we look for guidance of the Holy Spirit. It makes a difference when we become vulnerable and Jesus understands because He experienced vulnerability in both the crib and on the cross. It makes a difference when violence seems to dominate life and Jesus’ Peace creates space for forgiveness, reconciliation and peace.. It makes a difference when we don’t know how to pray and the Spirit prays on our behalf.

Romans 8:26-27 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)
In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know
how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.
And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because it
intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will.

It makes a difference when Sister Death approaches and we can look forward to an intimacy with God beyond anything we can imagine.

Franciscans in the Church after Vatican II

The Influence of Vatican ll and its consequences are part of our History. The Rule of the OFS
(1978) was written in the atmosphere of Vatican II.

Our calling invites us to add a Franciscan Flavor to the Church. We dialogue within the Church
to find ways to make her presence a faithful model of living the Gospel. The idea of a common
goal and a common life spills out of Vatican II into the OFS Rule.

They have been made living members of the Church by being buried and raised with Christ in baptism; they have been united more intimately with the Church by profession. Therefore, they should go forth as witnesses and instruments of her mission among all people, proclaiming Christ by their life and words.
Called like Saint Francis to rebuild the Church and inspired by his example, let them devote themselves energetically to living in full communion with the pope, bishops, and priests, fostering an open and trusting dialogue of apostolic effectiveness and creativity.

Franciscans, with or without success, faithfully seek to achieve communion among people within the Church and beyond it. The Church is a welcoming place where people can feel part
of God’s people.

DOGMATIC CONSTITUTION ON THE CHURCH (LUMEN GENTIUM) para 13
13. All are called to belong to the new people of God. Wherefore this people, while remaining one and only one, is to be spread throughout the whole world and must exist in all ages, so that the decree of God’s will may be fulfilled. In the beginning God made human nature one and decreed that all His children, scattered as they were, would finally be gathered together as one. It was for this purpose that God sent His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, that be might be teacher, king and priest of all, the head of the new and universal people of the sons of God. For this too God sent the Spirit of His Son as Lord and Life- giver. He it is who brings together the whole Church and each and every one of those who believe, and who is the well-spring of their unity in the teaching of the apostles and in fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in prayers. It follows that though there are many nations there is but one people of God, which takes its citizens from every race, making them citizens of a kingdom which is of a heavenly rather than of an earthly nature.

All men are called to be part of this catholic unity of the people of God which in promoting universal peace presages it. And there belong to or are related to it in various ways, the Catholic faithful, all who believe in Christ, and indeed the whole of mankind, for all men are called by the grace of God to salvation.

Lumen Gentium (para 42) further points out that love of God active in the Church. Diversity of
gifts and responsibilities can create the harmony that brings communion. The people of God
share faith and love within the Church and with those outside of the Church. Called to participate in God’s mission (Matt 28:19-20 ”Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, lam with you always, until the end of the age. ”) Franciscans reach out to all people, practicing the love Francis and Clare model for us.

Indeed, in order that love, as good seed may grow and bring forth fruit in the soul, each one of the faithful must willingly hear the Word of God and accept His Will, and must complete what God has begun by their own actions with the help of God’s grace. These actions consist in the use of the sacraments and in a special way the Eucharist, frequent participation in the sacred action of the Liturgy, application of oneself to prayer, self-abnegation, lively fraternal service and the constant exercise of all the virtues. For charity, as the bond of perfection and the fullness of the law,(229) rules over all the means of attaining holiness and gives life to these same means.(12*) It is charity which guides us to our final end. It is the love of God and the love of one’s neighbor which points out the true disciple of Christ.

Therefore, all the faithful of Christ are invited to strive for the holiness and perfection of their own proper state. Indeed they have an obligation to so strive. Let all then have care that they guide aright their own deepest sentiments of soul. Let neither the use of the things of this world nor attachment to riches, which is against the spirit of evangelical poverty, hinder them in their quest for perfect love.

Our Franciscan heritage both contributes to the Church and receives from the Church a sense of dignity and worth. As one people we seek to make the Gospel a living document for people to
see as well as hear. For us, authority serves all people and facilitates the sharing of the Word of
God with them.

Paragraphs 1, 2, and 3 of Gaudium et Spes (The Church in the Modern world) shows our link to
the entire human race. All are welcome. Gaudium et Spes (Paragraph 25-26) speaks of interdependence of the individual and society, proclaiming a community that Franciscan Fraternities ought to model. Fraternity is where relationships blossom and acceptance is present even when we disagree.

PASTORAL CONSTITUTION
ON THE CHURCH IN
THE MODERN WORLD
GA UDI UM E T SPES
PROMULGATED BY
HIS HOLINESS, POPE PAUL VI
ON DECEMBER 7. 1965

PREFACE

l . The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those
who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts. For theirs is a community composed of men. United in Christ, they are led by the Holy Spirit in their journey to the Kingdom of their Father and they have welcomed the news of salvation which is meant for every man. That is why this community realizes that it is truly linked with mankind and its history by the deepest of bonds.

2. Hence this Second Vatican Council, having probed more profoundly into the mystery of the
Church, now addresses itself without hesitation, not only to the sons of the Church and to all who invoke the name of Christ, but to the whole of humanity. For the council yearns to explain to
everyone how it conceives of the presence and activity of the Church in the world of today.

Therefore, the council focuses its attention on the world of men, the whole human family along
with the sum of those realities in the midst of which it lives; that world which is the theater of
man’s history, and the heir of his energies, his tragedies and his triumphs; that world which the
Christian sees as created and sustained by its Maker’s love, fallen indeed into the bondage of sin, yet emancipated now by Christ, Who was crucified and rose again to break the strangle hold of personified evil, so that the world might be fashioned anew according to God’s design and reach its fulfillment.

3. Though mankind is stricken with wonder at its own discoveries and its power, it often raises
anxious questions about the current trend of the world, about the place and role of man in the
universe, about the meaning of its individual and collective strivings, and about the ultimate
destiny of reality and of humanity. Hence, giving witness and voice to the faith of the whole
people of God gathered together by Christ, this council can provide no more eloquent proof of its solidarity with, as well as its respect and love for the entire human family with which it is bound up, than by engaging with it in conversation about these various problems. The council brings to mankind light kindled from the Gospel, and puts at its disposal those saving resources which the Church herself, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, receives from her Founder. For the human person deserves to be preserved; human society deserves to be renewed. Hence the focal point of our total presentation will be man himself, whole and entire, body and soul, heart and conscience, mind and will.

Therefore, this sacred synod, proclaiming the noble destiny of man and championing the Godlike seed which has been sown in him, offers to mankind the honest assistance of the Church in fostering that brotherhood of all men which corresponds to this destiny of theirs. Inspired by no earthly ambition, the Church seeks but a solitary goal: to carry forward the work of Christ under the lead of the befriending Spirit. And Christ entered this world to give witness to the truth, to rescue and not to sit in judgment, to serve and not to be served.

Man’s social nature makes it evident that the progress of the human person and the advance of society itself hinge on one another. For the beginning, the subject and the goal of all social institutions is and must be the human person which for its part and by its very nature stands completely in need of social life.(3) Since this social life is not something added on to man, through his dealings with others, through reciprocal duties, and through fraternal dialogue he develops all his gifts and is able to rise to his destiny.

Among those social ties which man needs for his development some, like the family and political
community, relate with greater immediacy to his innermost nature; others originate rather from
his free decision. In our era, for various reasons, reciprocal ties and mutual dependencies increase day by day and give rise to a variety of associations and organizations, both public and private. This development, which is called socialization, while certainly not without its dangers, brings with it many advantages with respect to consolidating and increasing the qualities of the human person, and safeguarding his rights.

But if by this social life the human person is greatly aided in responding to his destiny, even in its religious dimensions, it cannot be denied that men are often diverted from doing good and spurred toward and by the social circumstances in which they live and are immersed from their birth. To be sure the disturbances which so frequently occur in the social order result in part from the natural tensions of economic, political and social forms. But at a deeper level they flow from man’s pride and selfishness, which contaminate even the social sphere. When the structure of affairs is flawed by the consequences of sin, man, already born with a bent toward evil, finds there new inducements to sin, which cannot be overcome without strenuous efforts and the assistance of grace.

Every day human interdependence grows more tightly drawn and spreads by degrees over the whole world. As a result the common good, that is, the sum of those conditions of social life which allow social groups and their individual members relatively thorough and ready access to their own fulfillment, today takes on an increasingly universal complexion and consequently involves rights and duties with respect to the whole human race. Every social group must take account of the needs and legitimate aspirations of other groups, and even of the general welfare of the entire human family.

At the same time, however, there is a growing awareness of the exalted dignity proper to the human person, since he stands above all things, and his rights and duties are universal and inviolable. Therefore, there must be made available to all men everything necessary for leading a life truly human, such as food, clothing, and shelter; the right to choose a state of life freely and to found a family, the right to education, to employment, to a good reputation, to respect, to appropriate information, to activity in accord with the upright norm of one‘s own conscience, to protection of privacy and rightful freedom even in matters religious.

Hence, the social order and its development must invariably work to the benefit of the human person if the disposition of affairs is to be subordinate to the personal realm and not contrariwise, as the Lord indicated when He said that the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.

This social order requires constant improvement. It must be founded on truth, built on justice and animated by love; in freedom it should grow every day toward a more humane balance. An improvement in attitudes and abundant changes in society will have to take place if these objectives are to be gained.

God’s Spirit, Who with a marvelous providence directs the unfolding of time and renews the face of the earth, is not absent from this development. The ferment of the Gospel too has aroused and continues to arouse in man’s heart the irresistible requirements of his dignity.

Rebuilding the Church faces many difficulties. We humans do not changes easily. Secular Franciscans find conversion just as difficult as anyone else. The point of the Rule (#7) about conversion does not mean it actually happens in our lives (even though we profess to do it).

United by their vacation as ”brothers and sisters of penance”, and motivated by the dynamic power of the gospel, let them conform their thoughts and deeds to those of Christ by means of that radical interior change which the gospel itself calls ”conversion”. Human frailty makes it necessary that this conversion be carried out daily.
On this road to renewal the sacrament of reconciliation is the privileged sign of the Father’s mercy and the source of grace.

Anyone expecting this point of the Rule to be an easy slide to holiness does not realize our aversion to change. If rebuilding the Church means reshaping people’s attitudes, then we are involved in a long-term ministry. Vatican II encourages us to stay the course no matter how huge the obstacles. The Holy Spirit is always with us to guide our way. Paragraph 93 of Gaudium et Spes gives us a glimpse of this.

Mindful of the Lord’s saying: “by this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you
have love for one another” (John 13:35), Christians cannot yearn for anything more ardently than to serve the men of the modern world with mounting generosity and success. Therefore, by holding faithfully to the Gospel and benefiting from its resources, by joining with every man who loves and practices justice, Christians have shouldered a gigantic task for fulfillment in this world, a task concerning which they must give a reckoning to Him who will judge every man on the last of days.

Not everyone who cries, “Lord, Lord,” will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but those who do the Father’s will by taking a strong grip on the work at hand. Now, the Father wills that in all men we recognize Christ our brother and love Him effectively, in word and in deed. By thus giving witness to the truth, we will share with others the mystery of the heavenly Father’s love. As a consequence, men throughout the world will be aroused to a lively hope—the gift of the Holy Spirit—that some day at last they will be caught up in peace and utter happiness in that fatherland radiant with the glory of the Lord.

Ephesians 3:20-21New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine, by the power at
work within us, “to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever
and ever. Amen.

John 5:19-24 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

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